2021 Week 6: Community Arts Programs

MARCUS BREED | ART WITH A HEART

This week was busy! I was able to finish up a design for a mural that Ali asked me to help with and now we are just focusing on figuring out the color scheme. I am so excited to see how the design will evolve. Ali also expressed interest in teaching me how to use the jigsaw and get me in touch with a guy who can teach us how to weld, which would be incredibly useful for my career. Though I have learned advanced manufacturing techniques in university, mechanical engineers are expected to know a lot of the more “basic” skills such as using a saw or hammering nails. I have learned how to do them, but I was never actually taught the proper way. I am extremely excited to learn from her especially since she has much more of an artistic perspective on woodworking than I do.

The most exciting thing that happened this week was that I was able to table with Art with a Heart at the Orioles game on Saturday. It was a little nerve-wracking for me – Crowds stress me out and I get nervous talking to strangers, but if I put myself into a certain headspace, I can be very social. I pushed myself to reach out and talk to people about the organization, even managing to get some people to donate to us. It was really rewarding work! Of course, it was a plus that I got free tickets to the game and got to spend more time with my supervisor. My supervisor is very fun to talk to and we were able to get to know each other better during the downtimes between crowds.

I am starting to dread the end of my internship. I would like to extend it, if possible, because I love doing this work so much and I want to help Art with a Heart as much as I can.

CAROLINE COLVIN | DEWMORE BALTIMORE

At DewMore Baltimore, collaboration is a non-negotiable.

For the past six weeks, I have supported planning for DewMore’s premiere ‘So Fresh & So Clean’ Extravaganza, occurring August 7, 2021 from 12-7pm in Druid Hill Park. The festival will focus on the importance of Holistic Health within the community and is recognized as an official event of August Ceasefire weekend.

Mutual aid and intersectionality are imperative to the festival’s success. For example, there is notably no fee for health fair vendors. Instead, DewMore encourages an “exchange on behalf of the community,” including – but not limited to – in-kind donations, presentations, information handouts, and/or applicable masterclasses. In the same sphere, planning meetings are open to the general community, with all welcome to join (regardless of DewMore affiliation). This has evolved into a ‘by and for the community’ structure of diversified skills AND interests. Each contributor brings their own lived experience to the table, serving on one of five committees: logistics, art and decorations, holistic health, food, or youth activities. Volunteers serve within the area of expertise most akin to personal or vocational experience, ensuring everyone feels valued.

Behind the scenes, I have been tasked with outreach to DewMore’s preferred communication partners, gaining momentum for the festival. Beyond sharing our press release and poster, these communications often include requests for partners to share within their networks. This fits within Baltimore’s larger sense of interconnectedness: ‘If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.’ In requesting this information be shared, DewMore implicitly agrees to do the same for our partners’ future events.

My supervisor Olu rebukes the notion that nonprofits must compete in order to advance their mission. As such, similar organizations are seen not as rivals but allies, working congruently towards like goals. Competition implies a singular winner and loser. With collaboration, all parties can succeed.

SIGRID EDSON | STATION NORTH ARTS DISTRICT

I spent a good portion this week canvassing for several events we have going on in the district: Our artist info sessions, which were yesterday and the day before; the Art Walk next Friday; and Station North Skill Up!, the youth and family event I’ve been planning for over the past six weeks. For the info sessions, I was canvassing with my supervisor, visiting a few of the buildings with high concentrations of artist housing and studio space to drop off postcards and flyers. It was interesting to meet the building managers and see the spaces, but much more within my comfort zone than canvassing for the other events. For the Art Walk, I visited businesses and venues in the district and talked to the owners about the event, and for Skill Up I walked on my own through Charles North and Greenmount West, tucking postcards into doors and talking with folks on the street. Although this wasn’t a 100% comfortable task for me — approaching strangers, unfamiliar neighborhoods, etc. — the almost meditative repetition of going door to door became an opportunity for reflection upon this discomfort.

I am very conscious that I am a young White woman attending an elite university and working at a majority-White organization that tries to serve a majority-Black community. Naturally, I am even more conscious of this when I leave campus, or the office. Conflicting ideas go through my mind as I walk around Station North, or Baltimore in general: first, the feeling that this place does not belong to me and that I must do what I can to minimize the space I take up within it; and second, the phrase I remember most strongly from our cultural humility training during orientation, that I am “already a part of this community,” and my obligation is to be as thoughtful and open as I can with the space that I do take up — that instead of making myself smaller, perhaps I can make myself more permeable, or more translucent. Both must be true, but that’s not a particularly helpful answer, and I find myself worrying about how my presence is perceived, especially when I am representing an organization with a complicated (SNAD) or largely negative (Hopkins) reputation. Is my going into a neighborhood and trying to engage folks in SNAD’s programming perceived as me strengthening connections with people I already share a space with, or is it perceived as trying to replace or take over relationships that already exist without us? Is standing at the periphery of an event that is not “for me” instead of joining in an act of respect and humility, or a failure to engage? I know different things will be perceived differently by different people, and my goal should be to do right by the individuals I am interacting with in each specific situation and to continually stretch myself to learn and push my own boundaries.

I have also learned over these six weeks that partnership goes a long way. Skill Up, for instance, is being hosted by and in partnership with Greenmount West Community Center, a space that already serves and is trusted by its majority-Black constituency. Same goes for Motor House, the venue for our info sessions. An organization like SNAD can’t build relationships with folks in the community out of nothing; we have to build trust and familiarity by connecting horizontally with organizations that already have the necessary ethos.

ZARA HAMID | BALTIMORE YOUTH ARTS

This week, I began working on one of my favorite projects for BYA: creating an Instagram reel. It was interesting to say the least to figure out all the steps: from the editing to the caption to the sounds. I really enjoyed toying around with the different features on Tik tok to create this, which is not something I would have ordinarily done, and I’m very excited to post about the summer collection for BYA!

Last week I talked about my issue with social media being the lack of views and content engagement. With the reel that was just posted on Friday, there was almost 300 views within the first couple hours of posting! However, from there, the view count has barely increased, surpassing 400 views only two days later. It’s been a struggle trying to figure out whether it’s the type of content that’s being posted that viewers aren’t engaging with or if it’s an issue with the way that I am designing the posts, and when I choose to post.

Aside from social media, I have been focused on making sure the furthering education panel is ready to go in about a week and a half. So far, most of the schools I have contacted have said that they can make (one couldn’t due to a staff training), and I am still waiting to hear back from Peabody. If anyone has any contacts in the Peabody admissions office, please share! I would love for Peabody to talk to the youth about the process for applying to art’s schools.

KATHY TIEN | WIDE ANGLE YOUTH MEDIA

This week, I continued my work on Wide Angle’s outreach efforts for the next calendar year. My main task was to consolidate contacts with community partners and with local schools, with the goal of communicating to them Wide Angle’s mission and vision for the Baltimore community. It was a side of nonprofit management that I had not encountered before, and I was more than willing to learn about the connections that Wide Angle had with the larger community.

Nonprofit organizations, especially in urban areas, are connected through partnerships with the community. Without the support of community members extending resources and opportunities, nonprofits would not be able create such strong connections with all populations within the city. Wide Angle relies on partnering organizations around the city to bring media education to its students, and to reinforce the mutually beneficial relationship they have with the city. The process of vetting and maintaining relationships with all partners is an incredibly time-intensive task, and I have just scratched the surface of creating such connections.

Working in the nonprofit space has allowed me to witness how mission-driven work can intersect with other industries. When such partnerships occur, intentions are clear and both parties can bring their values to the partnerships. For example, Wide Angle students are focusing on mental health illness in BIPOC communities as a topic to explore. Partnering with local organizations that offer mental health resources to underprivileged communities allow the students to learn about the resources available to them and use their multimedia skills in the same breath. For Wide Angle students, their skills with photography and media can be transferred to their own passion projects and prospective careers.

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